TOP PESTICIDE BLUNDERS – THINK BEFORE YOU SPRAY!
SACRAMENTO – Learn from the mistakes of others before you use
pesticides for spring-cleaning and gardening chores.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation today released its latest list of “top pesticide blunders” to help people avoid needless injury and illness. Our health and safety scientists say a few simple precautions can prevent most pesticide accidents in and around your home:
Don’t use a pesticide unless you really need it -- look for the least-toxic solution to pest problems, indoors and out.
Keep pesticides in their original containers to avoid mistaking them for snacks. And always keep pesticides out of children's reach.
If you must use a pesticide product, read all label directions closely, follow those directions to the letter, and stay alert while using the product.
“Pesticides include a wide variety of over-the-counter products – including mold and mildew cleaners, disinfectants, weed killers and pool chemicals – that can be used safely, but only if consumers recognize them as toxic chemicals,” said DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam. “Careless misuse of these products can expose homeowners, children and pets to serious hazards.”
To help consumers avoid mistakes, DPR offers these “top pesticide blunders” from our illness report database:
1. When Orange County residents complained of a raccoon problem, a friend overseas sent them a black, granular pesticide. The wife mixed it with meat as bait for raccoons. The raccoons did not eat it, so she labeled and froze the meatballs. Some time later, her husband cooked and ate the meatballs. He became seriously ill and drove to a hospital. (Suspected pesticide-poisoning victims should never drive themselves to treatment, since they may be impaired by the toxin.) This victim survived both his mistakes. Later analysis of the pesticide showed that it was nine percent aldicarb, a highly toxic insecticide; one teaspoon of the pure ingredient could kill five healthy adults.
2. In Los Angeles County, a woman put some insecticide into a soft drink bottle and gave it to her sister to take home. The sister left the bottle on a table, where her husband and four-year-old daughter drank from it. They recognized their mistake and made themselves vomit before going to an emergency room; both recovered. (However, some liquid pesticides pose a risk to the lungs from induced vomiting. Pesticide labels provide treatment instructions, but these victims did not have a labeled container. Fortunately, they had no further health problems from their pesticide exposure.)
3. In San Joaquin County, an apartment dweller set off a “bug bomb” sitting on top of his gas stove. When the aerosol came in contact with the stove’s pilot light, the resulting blast blew out the apartment’s windows, pushed out walls and raised the roof. A neighbor’s windows also blew out, according to firefighters who responded to the scene. “Bug bombs” should never be used in any structure until all ignition sources – including gas pilot lights – are turned off.
4. A Kern County homeowner left a container of pool chlorine powder in the sun on a warm day. When he opened the container, the heated and pressurized powder blew into his face and eyes. He sought medical treatment for symptoms that included eye irritation.
5. An Imperial County homeowner activated six “bug bombs” inside his kitchen cabinets without turning off the gas stove’s pilot light. He then waited at the kitchen entrance because he wanted to see the cockroaches die. The pilot light ignited the fogger propellant, causing extensive damage. The victim suffered burns to his face, arms and legs, but he did not require hospitalization.
6. A Los Angeles woman poured a bleach solution into a water bottle to sanitize it. When she placed several drinking water bottles in her refrigerator. She mistakenly included the one containing sanitizer as well, and later took a drink of the bleach.
7. A Monterey County apartment resident poured three cleaning products into a toilet bowl – an inappropriate mix -- left the bathroom, and returned a short time later. When she entered the room, she inhaled the vapors from the chemical reaction, began to experience breathing problems, and had to call 911 for assistance.
The incidents listed above occurred in 2006 and 2007. As always, DPR observes medical privacy law and does not reveal victim identities. The 2006 summary of all illness reports is now available.
As part of ongoing efforts to increase illness reporting and assist incident investigations, DPR last year launched a toll-free phone number, 1-87-PESTline (1-877-378-5463) to help people contact their County Agricultural Commissioner to report incidents or file complaints. The toll-free number is being added to phone directory white pages statewide. By state law, physicians are also required to report suspected pesticide illness, but many home accidents are never reported.
For more information on home and garden pesticide safety, see DPR consumer fact sheets
One of six departments and boards within Cal/EPA, DPR regulates the sale and use of pesticides to protect people and our environment.
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